Behind the Headlines: what is happening now and the implications for the future

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”     

~ Socrates

The book, Behind the Headlines: what is happening and the implications for the future  – working title (©Lustig & Ringland 2019) is in preparation. How can we help in the meantime? We can help you to explore the future.

What we have found is that by focusing on the next 20 years, we can help organisations and people prepare now for the changes expeA Mapcted in this timescale. We base our descriptions of the future in 2040, on evidence. The directions of travel may seem scary – we balance this by discussing where the opportunities may lie. And we know that, in the past, people and society have managed to triumph over many hard times. In Behind the Headlines, we focus on the trends or likely directions of travel. We describe the disruptive forces that will affect the way that trends emerge and interact.  We also explore what might deflect the trends.

A trend is not a forecast – it’s a direction of travel. So, we can describe an aspect of the past decades by saying for instance the trend has been for people to move to urban areas from rural, so that now, for the first time more people live in towns than the countryside. When we use trends to describe the future, we might expect some of the past trends to continue. So, people are expected to continue the trend to move to towns, in general. But, there will be some people who “buck the trend” such as families moving to rural areas to bring up small children in areas with less air pollution. The important thing for decision makers is to understand both the trends and the exceptions.

In Behind the Headlines, we have chosen 13 megatrends and explore how they might emerge up to 2040. Most of the names of the trends may be recognisable, however,  different trends are becoming important.   In particular, over the next decades, the pressures of population and global warming are among the biggest challenges we will face.

Here is a link to the curated database from our previous book containing the data behind each chapter.  Here is a link to data mining tool we use for these trends.

Population drives all the other trends.  The number of people drives how much resource humans use.  This graph shows the number of people living below the poverty line – those who don’t have enough to eat. The proportion of people living in poverty is falling, which is a good thing.  As people earn more, their choices increase as well.  Once you have enough to eat, you can think about getting a bicycle (Mobility).  You might even have enough to choose where you’d like to live (Migration and Urbanisation).   Having a larger income also means you can buy and consume more (Global Limits and Global Warming) and if you migrate to a city, the chances that the women in your family have an education increase…. Thus leading to smaller family sizes, thus lowering the rate of population growth.

The child in this picture, eating a chocolate ice cream, will have grown to an adult by 2040.  He will probably have had to migrate due to climate change as Berlin becomes as hot as Baghdad,

At that time, it is likely that there won’t be chocolate anymore; global warming is making it difficult for cacao to grow and the areas where it can grow are (even today) experiencing reduced yields. 

The bees on the bib the child is wearing, like many insects are at great risk of extinction.  It is likely that global warming has made the weather increasingly erratic which affects the bee’s health.  If there are less bees, they can pollinate fewer flowers which affects many plants that we rely on for food, shelter, medicines and fauna.

It is likely that by 2040 we have won’t have plastic bibs anymore, only clothing of natural fibres because we will have stopped the use of plastics as they are made from fossil fuels.

About us:

Patricia Lustig leads LASA Insight Ltd, a strategic foresight company. She uses foresight, horizon scanning and futures tools to help organisations develop insight into emerging trends, develop a successful strategy and implement the changes. She understands the need to explore potential futures to develop robust corporate strategy and implement successful change. She has worked in EMEA, South and Southeast Asia, Canada and the USA at major blue-chip companies BP, Motorola and Logica. She is the author or co-author of four books and numerous articles.  She is a Board member of the Association of Professional Futurists.  Her recent award-winning book, Strategic Foresight: learning from the future is under negotiation for translation into Chinese by Science Press, Beijing.

Gill Ringland was head of strategy at ICL (now part of Fujitsu) and CEO and Fellow of SAMI Consulting.  She is a Fellow of the British Computer Society, and of the World Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is now an Emeritus Fellow of SAMI and a Director of Ethical Reading. She has been co-opted onto EC and British government advisory bodies covering IT, Economic and Social Research, and Foresight.   She has worked across Europe, Mexico, Malaysia, Japan, Canada and the USA. She is the author or co-author of eight books, used widely in Business Schools including Harvard, and numerous articles. She provided the section on Scenario Planning for the Bloomsbury publication “The Ultimate Resource: Business”.

Patricia and Gill have recently published Megatrends and How to Survive Them: preparing for 2032.  They are currently providing the foresight expertise for the ‘Study on Building and Piloting a Strategic Intelligence Foresight System for future Research and Innovation (R & I) Framework Programmes’ for the European Commission.

Quotes from people who have worked with this material: 

“Thank you so much, your session was brilliant. I think we could have all sat there for another few hours discussing the mega trends.” Caroline Gratrix.

“How can we share these insights with our grandchildren to help them navigate this confusing world?” Peter Haas 

“Gill Ringland and her colleagues have been my ‘go-to’ source for insight into future trends for many years.” Francesca Lagerberg.

“Ah-ha, I’ve been looking for this!” Shameem Siddiqi

“A visionary model of megatrends that are influencing our lives at all levels.” Dr Harbeen Arora.

“… this will help people to orient their futures thinking in relation to the sustainability of their organisation.” Professor Ted Fuller

“…an invaluable starting point, especially if used effectively.” Dr Bruce Lloyd, Emeritus Professor

“You energised a large group of CFOs to talk about megatrends for the future – a topic they might not normally think about!” Conference organiser